Inviting SUCCESS as Prompt for Reflection – Or, Ideas for Sticky Reflection

6 May

During the two years CTLers have been writing these blog posts, we’ve often focused on the ways we’ve adapted the SUCCESS acronym associated with Dan and Chip Heath to the active learning and teaching practices we advocate, and to the aligned course design principles we enact. Alongside the work of sometimes drafting and more often editing these posts, I’ve felt a vague sense that something was missing from our adaptations and analysis.

The combination of a recent lunch conversations with two of my mentors and this Sunday’s Dialogue in the New York Times focusing on “A Talent for Teaching,” transformed the elusive “something’s missing” to this morning’s quiet “So, that’s the missing bit” understanding: We can use this framework to reflect on who, what, when, where, why and how we learn from our students. Here’s a visual remaking of the SUCCESS acronym with critically reflection on teaching in mind:

6 May image

And now, for just a few more words to sketch out the reflective prompts a bit more:

Simple, essential message of the year.

Because of your teaching and your students learning, what are three new things you have learned about your field of study that you can write out as simple messages – something akin to bumper stickers – that will allow you to hold the ideas and come back to them for review as you gather resources to begin teaching again.

Unexpected moment of learning.

Imagine your course calendar set out as a concept map or flow chart or some other graphical representation of the course, then step back to examine it with this question in mind: Where in that “map” would you pinpoint the moment where you realized either or both of these things:

  • Your students were learning something you hadn’t expected, planned or hoped for them to learn.
  • Your students were teaching you something that you hadn’t expected, planned or hoped to learn your own self.

Concrete demonstration of respect.

When did your students know that you respected them – and why did you become aware of this?

Credible example of learning from students.

Jot down the name of that one assignment or assessment in your course – doesn’t matter if it was a “big” and formal assignment or a “small” and informal assessment – that you hadn’t been sure about, for whatever reasons. Now, how come you were wary of the assignment or assessment and how you have learned to make it a better assignment based on learning from your students who completed the assignment.

Emotional bridging to student learning.

Who are the three students who made the biggest learning gains in your class? Call up details about how these students came to care about mastery of difficult threshold concepts, how they came to link the classroom to their own communities, and how they exhibited increased motivation working with you and drew on empathy in working with others to learn while bridging to new – if also difficult – learning.

Stories from the midst of an “aha” moment.

Look back at what you’ve generated so far in reflecting on what you’ve learned in the midst of teaching with and learning from student this year. Circle words that remind you of a great story you could tell that would reveal the details beneath these surface words. Review what you’ve circle to pluck out that one word or cluster of words that can become THE story you tell about your teaching with and learning from student this year. Spill that story – the whole thing of who, what, when, where, why, and how that are central to storytelling. Then tell the story of this story in one simple message to reveal its core message to you as a teacher, to remind you of what you have learned about teaching because of learning from your students.

Savvy. Teaching that Provokes Change has an impact on learners and teachers.

The easiest prompt to write out for your consideration is also, I find, the most challenging prompt to write in response to when I look back at a year: How have I changed – as a teacher, a learner, a person at the university, a person in my own many other worlds – because of interactions with my students? because of the ways I have seen my students change – and been impacted by those changes?

Sticky Reflection.

The lessons of teaching and learning with the most stickiness for me are those that come from listening to my students – or, more accurately, from listening to students in order to honor the semester just closed rather than to shake or shrug it off.


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